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Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women

by Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women
Empower Abused and Trafficked Vietnamese Women

“I can overcome what hindered me in the past, and so can you."

Loi, a 21-year-old client of Hagar International in Vietnam attended an international conferencein Taiwan in late October 2018. At this event, Loi had many opportunities to learn and grow bysharing her story and listening to other Ambassadors. 

When Loi was referred to Hagar two years ago by a former Hagar client, she suffered from multiple traumas, initially arising from sexual abuse and then social stigma experienced in her home village. Being blamed for being abused, and isolated, Loi felt unable to leave her house or talk with anyone. The abuser’s family lived across the street and whenever they passed by her house, they accused Loi and her family of lying about their son. Loi did not have anywhere to turn to, spent most of her time locking herself in a room, but did not want her family to be disheartened by her struggles. 

Becoming a client of Hagar, she was able to leave her toxic environment and move to Hanoi. Hagar’s case manager and psychologist worked alongside Loi to develop and implement an individual care plan for her recovery. When she first entered our programme, she couldn’t talk about her past experience of sexual abuse. She was given space and allowed to set the pace of her healing. When she felt safe, she learned a different way to look at her experience. Gradually Loi became more open and shared her feelings more. She found her voice. Loi started working and with Hagar's support, she entered university to study hospitality.

LOI TODAY

During her one week stay in Taiwan, Loi shared her story and her perspectives about gender identity and gender stereotypes with over 100 representatives from international NGOs in Asia. She confided “I have overcome all the stigmas and complexes of a victim to become who I am today. I work, I go to university. I am building my life and my future. If I can do it, so can you.”

Before, she pondered on the meaning of being a girl. In her hometown, girls are expected to finish high school, get married and bear children, and they should accept whatever is offered to them. Loi is determined that such a life is not meant for her. She believes that every girl deserves to know that she can be much more than what is expected from her. Indeed, she can be anyone she wants to be. 

Tra, 24 years old, survivor of domestic violence 

Tra thought her married life would not be easy right after she got married. Her husband was sent to jail for 6 months being accused of damaging others’ property. Her mother-in-law did not consider her as a daughter-in-law but just another source of income for the family. She expected her to make money while insulting and beating her. While Tra was pregnant, her mother-in-law made her going to spray insecticide on the farm and sometimes beat her on her belly, saying that the baby was not her grandchild. Tra’s husband finally got out of jail but only ended up beating her up once in a while. Because of the dire relationship with her husband’s family, Tra went back to her parents’ home from time to time, even after she gave birth to her son.  

Tra was wrong in thinking that her parents’ home would be a safe shelter for her while being ostracized by her husband’s family. Her father left home since she was a child and she is the youngest of the 4 siblings. But seeing her and her son beat up and treated badly by her in-laws, her brother and sister-in- law not only didn’t sympathize with her, but tried to turn her away. They were afraid that if Tra kept staying home, they would have to share the family’s land property to her as well. One day they even locked Tra and her son, then less than 1 year old, outside of the house at night until Tra’s mother got back and let them in. They were beating and insulting her and were determined to kick her out of the house.  

Having nobody to ask for support, Tra sought help from local NGOs. Through some referrals she finally got to Hagar. At Hagar, she was supported with safe accommodation, nutrition and health care for both her and her son. She felt thankful for finally finding a really safe and thriving place for her son to be in. “If I had not found this house, I would not have had anywhere else to go to. I couldn’t neither go back to my husband’s family, nor my own family.”  

Growing up in a family without a father, which, among other reasons, might have caused her brother to be violent, Tra doesn’t want her son to grow up the same way with a violent father. Though being mother at a relatively young age, just like every mother in the world, she wants the best for her son. “I cannot be more thankful to have Hagar with me to heal my scars and rebuild my life. Hagar appeared when I was most desperate taking my child to run away from my violent husband and brother.” With Hagar support, her son is now going to kindergarten, which spares her some free time to spend  

on herself: getting psychological counseling, learning about infant care, taking up therapeutic arts activities at Hagar Recovery Center.  

Once feeling desperate having her own family and husband turning their back on her, Tra has now discovered the beauty of life because there are still people like Hagar staff who used to be complete strangers to her, sympathize with her and are committed to support her and her son in any way they can for as long as it takes.  

Hiep grew up in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. Hagar staff remember the first time they visited her at home after she called the Hagar hotline.

When she was younger, she didn’t feel loved or known by her parents because they were always away trying to make money to feed their children. When she was 17, a friend of their family told her about an ‘exciting’ job opportunity across the border. Hiep didn’t know it, but she was on her way to being sold to someone in China. Fortunately, a border guard stopped her as he was suspicious she was being trafficked.

The government supported Hiep and she was sent to a vocational training center. After five months of being there, she discovered she was pregnant. She was expelled from the center and after telling her boyfriend about the baby, he left her.

Hiep couldn’t comprehend that there was a life growing inside of her. She was five months pregnant, and she was sure that the baby would be a burden. Hiep was so desperate to not be pregnant that she would lift heavy objects, run fast up and down stairs, and sometimes hit her own stomach. Hiep was referred to Hagar Vietnam where she was provided medical care, psychological support, accommodation and parenting skills.

She was encouraged to take better care of herself through a nutrition program and regular check-ups. Though she struggled at first to bond with her baby, she persisted. Over time, Hiep found joy in the way the baby responded to her voice. She loved it when he would kick. On the day of her delivery, Hiep was very nervous. The first time she held her son, she was afraid she might drop him, but Hagar staff showed her how to hold him and feed him. Now, the baby is the light of Hiep’s life.

Hiep learned how to be a barista through vocational training with Hagar. She had to leave her son in Hagar’s care at times, and she missed him terribly, but knowing he existed gave her the hope she needed to push through. 

“Life is tough and people are unpredictable, but I have to work hard for myself and my son. After a long day at work, a photo of my son motivates me to try harder tomorrow.”

Hiep’s vocational training helped her gain knowledge and skills she needs to support herself and her son. Today, Hiep is thriving, working with a supportive team and pursuing a new-found passion for her career. She works in a hotel near her hometown, which means she can stay close to her son while she earns a living.

An unforseen consequence of China’s one-child policy is the impact it continues to have on girls and women in neighboring Vietnam. The resultant imbalance of the sexes in China has caused a scarcity of available females, creating a market for the abduction of Vietnamese girls for marriage and often domestic servitude. Girls from Vietnam’s ethnic tribes can be especially vulnerable. They may be poor or lacking in education, they may be unable to speak the majority Vietnamese language (Kinh), and the need to find work can make them more susceptible to being duped into human slavery. 

At the age of 18, Hoang had no concept of human trafficking. From an ethnic minority living in central Vietnam, she went willingly with a woman from a neighboring village on the promise of work in China. Too late, she realised she had been sold as a bride to a Chinese man. Her parents were upset for her when she managed to contact them, but told her that she had no choice but to accept the situation. With no means of going home, all she could hope for was that the marriage would turn out to be a happy one. 

It wasn’t. All Hoang longed for was to return to Vietnam, and her husband’s response was to try to beat the homesickness out of her. She went on to have a son and, by the time he turned two, her husband eventually gave in and agreed to take her home for a visit to her family. But the joy of seeing her family again made her more homesick and unhappier than ever, this infuriated her husband and he became angrier and more violent than before. 

By the time Hoang had a second child, the need to escape was almost overwhelming – but she knew she couldn’t leave without her children. All she had to do, Hoang told herself, was wait: bear the abuse and the sadness for a little while longer until her youngest child was four years-old and able to manage the journey (which she had memorized from the previous trip). And so, that’s what she did, seizing her opportunity the moment her husband was away. It had taken nine years. 

Finally, Hoang had made it home safely with her children, but there was still a long way to go in terms of legally formalizing her return. Fortunately, the local police contacted Hagar Vietnam, who mobilized staff from their Hanoi offices to formulate a strategy for legal, social and emotional support. In collaboration with the local authorities, Hagar organized birth certificates and household registration for Hoang’s children as the first step, then they developed a plan for schooling and Vietnamese language classes (since Hoang’s children could only speak Chinese). Next, medical check-ups were required as her children never visited hospital before and Hoang experienced severe stomachaches since she was in China.   

As a result, Hoang’s children have a free access to education as part of the governmental support for households in extreme poverty. At the beginning, Hoang did manual labor work within the province and also followed her neighbor to find seasonal jobs out of town. It didn’t pay well, around USD 6~7 per day and it was not stable, either. Later, Hagar suggested a job at a supermarket in town for Hoang, but she was very reluctant to take on the offer. She never worked for a company before. She also felt inferior to others because of her low level of literacy and her past experiences. She constantly made excuses, “I can’t work there because I don’t have many words (which means that she couldn’t write or read well), or (A company has many regulations and policies “I don’t know how to follow them and probably end up breaking the rules...”  

It has been over 6 months since Hoang started her work and last month she signed a full-time contract for a one-year employment. 

Hiep grew up in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. Hagar staff still remember the first time they visited her at home after she called the Hagar hotline. They arrived in Hiep’s village just before sunset, and then had to walk another hour to find her house. The only way they knew they’d reached the right place was when they heard her voice.

Hiep has eight brothers and sisters. When she was younger, Hiep didn’t feel loved or known by her parents because they were always away trying to make money to feed their children. When she was 17, Hiep left home. A friend of their family told her about an ‘exciting’ job opportunity across the border. Hiep didn’t know it, but she was on her way to being sold to someone in China. Fortunately, a border guard stopped her as he was suspicious she was being trafficked. She didn’t have an ID and she didn’t seem to know where she was going.

The government supported Hiep and she was sent to a vocational training centre. After six months of being there, Hiep discovered she was pregnant. She was expelled from the centre and her boyfriend left her. Hiep was referred to Hagar Vietnam.

Hiep couldn’t comprehend that there was a life growing inside of her. She was five months pregnant, and she was sure that the baby would be a burden. Hiep was so desperate to not be pregnant that she would lift heavy objects, run fast up and down stairs, and sometimes hit her own stomach. Hagar provided medical care, psychological support, accommodation and parenting skills for Hiep.

She was encouraged to take better care of herself through a nutrition program and regular check-ups. Hiep struggled to bond with her baby, but she patiently persisted in trying to. She would sit and listen to music and try to speak to the baby. Over time, Hiep found joy in the way the baby responded to her voice. She loved it when he would kick. On the day of her delivery, Hiep was very nervous. The first time she held her son, she was afraid she might drop him, but Hagar staff showed her how to hold him and feed him. Now, the baby is the light of Hiep’s life.

Hiep learnt how to be a barista through vocational training with Hagar. She had to leave her son in Hagar’s care at times, and she missed him terribly, but knowing he existed gave her the hope she needed to push through.

“Life is tough and people are unpredictable, but I have to work hard for myself and my son. After a long day at work, a photo of my son motivates me to try harder tomorrow.”

 

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Organization Information

Hagar USA, which supports the work of Hagar International

Location: Charlotte, NC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hagar_USA
Project Leader:
Catherine Sherrod
Director of Development
Pheonix, AZ United States

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